Shawn is 37. He is well traveled, but until last week he had never visited our Nation’s Capital. Having toured a museum or two with him, I was surprised. I knew he would be intrigued and inspired but what he was going to see.
He started thinking about the trip in late January. He had begun doing research on “Catch Shares” and the impact they could have on coastal fisheries, especially those in our area. It was alarming to Shawn and many others. As he can tell you, if you live or work on the Gulf Coast… or anywhere along the 88,000 miles of coastline that encompasses the United States… Catch Shares, IFQs, Bag Limits, and shortened fishing seasons affect you. If you eat fish, they will impact you. If you like to fish, they will affect you.
Shawn is a third generation fisherman. He still relies on the fish of the Gulf of Mexico for his livelihood. There are fewer of some… There are a surprising abundance of others. In our area, Red Snapper and Amberjack are threatened not by over fishing, but by laws and limits that are based on faulty science. Ironically, those that write, pass and enforce these laws and regulations know full well how unbalanced the science is.
So, when Shawn learned of the rally planned for February 24 in Washington, DC, he made up his mind to go. In the mean time, he wanted to get the word out to as many as possible. He started a grassroots effort of sorts. He created a forum where he could reach as many people as possible on Facebook. The fishermen have a collective voice and it was time for them to be heard.
This Facebook page was given the name Fisherman’s Voice. Linked to it are several other Social Networking sites with the same uniform url, among them: Twitter and YouTube. In the short month from it’s creation (Jan 23rd) until the scheduled trek to Washington, the page grew well beyond Shawn’s circles. By the time he boarded the chartered bus to DC Tuesday morning, Feb 23rd, the Facebook page had a loyal following and over 800 fans. He saw the potential from the start. He shared links. He made posts. He encouraged others to share the page with their friends and family. He let everyone know just how important an issue this is.
The trip to our Nation’s Capital was a milestone for him and his efforts. While on the 18 hour ride he continued to post on the Facebook page. The growth rate increased as fellow fishermen and their families joined the trip… virtually anyway. What followed next, surprised us all. The page gained a life of its own. The fans began posting about their trip to DC. They asked questions. Other fans researched and provided answers while Shawn was on the bus with 30 others headed North.
They reached Richmond, VA around 1:00am local time. They got a few hours sleep and set out Wednesday morning to join their fellow fishermen in Washington, DC. By the time they arrived at Union Station, the fan-base had grown to over 1,000. As the small group from Northwest Florida offloaded the bus and began the short walk down Louisiana Avenue, they were joined by literally thousands with the same mindset. Over 5,000 fishermen and their advocates joined their voices together to let Congress know, “I Fish. I Vote.” Their goal was simple… Flexibility in the Magnuson-Stevens Act that was passed in 1996 and implemented in 1997. The Act states that its purpose is “to provide for the conservation and management of the fisheries and for other purposes.”
“Conservation and management” are not points of contention with fishermen. This group is the first to agree that both are necessary for the fisheries to survive. Unfortunately, in the past, when the NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) has closed a fishery for overfishing (such as they are threatening to do with Red Snapper) the regulations and restrictions are not eased once replenishment is achieved. (Also, I should point out that this is the “unbalanced science” that I referred to earlier in this post.) Red Snapper are more abundant in the Gulf of Mexico than they have been in 30 years. This is the threat to the other fisheries in the Gulf.
Since his return from the rally, he has not wavered. Quite the contrary. His resolve is stronger than ever. The Fisherman’s Voice is louder. The page continues to grow. “Fans” are posting links, pictures, videos and encouraging one another. They post links to legislation. They explain how to share the information with others. Shawn is right there in the middle. He is keeping the conversation going. Right now, that is so important. The page at the time of this post is approaching 1,500 strong.
This trip was important for Shawn. It was important for him to go… for all those that could not. Shawn represented over 1,400 people, 1,400 voters that day. 1,400 that knew he could and would speak from their hearts. He knows how important it is to them when he looks in his father’s eyes. He knows how important it is when he visits his grandfather and takes him fishing. He knows how important it is when he sees friends that over the years have become like family.
Shawn is glad he went to Washington. He plans to go back.
Character… inspirational quotes define this trait as what we do when we think no one can see us. Those little things we do when we think no one sees are important. You never know how much your character can influence others.
Last week was long… to say the least. It seems I have been working a lot, absorbed in one (Social Media) puzzle or another. Early Tuesday morning, the mailbox at the “Rain forest” was (accidentally) swiped by a passing car. It was left in pieces… well, it was in pieces anyway. The young lady driving the car was on her way to class. She was also knee deep in her week. Carly had been driving by the “Rain forest” for years. She knew the white mailbox with ivy stenciling well.
For 3 consecutive years we have had to replace the sprinkler in our front yard due to people running it over and not stopping. The mailbox has been hit before and we never knew who, when, ect. Unlike these individuals, she didn’t keep going. Carly stopped. She came to the door. She explained. She apologized. This alone was character enough to impress my mother… Who incidentally, is hard to impress. With grace that is typical of my mother, she accepted Carly’s apology and told her, “Don’t let this ruin your day.”
But Carly didn’t stop there. She not only offered to replace the post, she bought it, painted it, and returned that evening to deliver it. When my mother saw the care and craft that was presented to her… she could hardly believe it.
The next morning Carly returned to put the post in the ground. She borrowed our shovel and planted not only our new mailbox post, but new flowers too. I got to meet Carly that morning. I’m still surprised at her character… pleasantly surprised.
Carly, thank you! It’s not often my mother cries… I’m glad they were tears of joy.
Really. I don’t. I know exactly what I want to write… That is until I sit down at the keyboard. That keyboard. The keys on my Vaio are worn. Shiny from lots of typing. You can take one look at my lovely laptop and see that I am not short on words. I have a comment for everything. As is also evident from my Twitter stream… over 5,000 tweets and counting. I must have something of worth to say, there are over 1,400 tweeters following me.
I’m not saying all of this to say that you should listen to me, follow me or be my pal on Facebook. I’m taking a page from some writers that I enjoy reading… I’m trying to get this procrastination out of my system!
Let’s see… Did I record the latest episode of House? It was a rerun. Is there an app for that on my new iPhone… maybe I should read the instructions. Does Lola have her flea pill for this month? Should I swing by Target on my way home? I really want a coke but there’s none in the fridge. I’m hungry, but I just ate. There’s some coffee ice cream, but it’s 10 am. I should have gone to church. I need to call my friend and take her back her dishes… I’ve had them since Christmas. Where did I leave my favorite flip flops?
Sounds frantic… it’s not. It’s my way of finding everything, anything else to do… when I should be sitting at the keyboard getting all of these thoughts out of my head and onto my hard drive.
So, you see, I do not have writer’s block. I’m just organizing my latest Theta Burst and getting ready to write.
Useless–adjective-of no use; not serving the purpose or any purpose; unavailing or futile
knowledge–noun-the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time. acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report